Last week, a friend, who is easily the best kindergarten teacher I have ever observed, told of a recent experience in her kindergarten class. She had asked a young boy to “cap his marker,” meaning to put the cap on tightly. For some unknown reason, these words sparked a fit of anger that was hard to imagine even in an adult. After rampaging around the room for far too long, this 5-year-old ended his tirade by calling his teacher a “stupid f___k__r.” I hope that is as shocking to you as it is to me.
We have all heard the statement, “Children learn what they live.” In the past this meant that what you showed your child at home was exactly how your child would behave. But in this day and age of both parents working and single parent families, many children “live” in many different places. Some children “live” part of their day in pre-school or daycare, some stay with other family members, some stay with neighbors or family friends, etc. Children today also spend a great deal of time “living” in front of the television watching behaviors that are not necessarily what we would like for them to see. Consequently, parents have little control over what language or attitudes children pick up in other places.
However, parents have a critical responsibility in determining what language and behaviors their children ingrain into their own being. So whether you have to adjust your own behaviors or alter what your children learn elsewhere, there are certain behaviors and attitudes that, ideally, your children should never experience or that must be “fixed” if learned elsewhere. These behaviors are all inappropriate in a school environment for students and teachers alike. We want our children to be successful in school, enjoy learning, and be excited about the future. Behavior and attitude issues can throw our goals for our children off track very quickly. Your child needs you to be constantly aware of what he/she is saying and doing and then make adjustments as necessary. Your child also needs you to be a role-model of appropriate behavior.
Inappropriate Home and School Behaviors:
1. Swearing. I know that children hear swearing everywhere, and there are differences of opinion as to just how bad swearing is; but if a student swears at a teacher, the result is generally suspension from school. Swearing at adults shows a lack of respect for authority figures–not a good idea in school or at home. Not allowing swearing in the home and discussing issues like non-swearing ways to handle anger will help prevent having your child pick up a habit that is difficult to remove and can have serious consequences. (I fear that the little boy mentioned above has a rough future ahead.)
2. Arguing. If children are constantly exposed to family members arguing with each other, then they grow to believe that arguing is the correct way to deal with everyone else.
3. Inappropriate humor. Don’t be fooled. Children hear everything you say even if they don’t react at the time. It is pretty embarrassing to have the school call and tell you a dirty joke your child was spreading around school–especially when you realize where they heard it.
4. Being too physical. If your child is seeing or experiencing slapping, punching, etc., you can expect that type of behavior to be duplicated at school.
5. Criticizing or blaming others. Students of all ages want to blame others for misbehavior or for school failures. Children need to see their parents accepting responsibility for their own mistakes; and children should never hear anyone talking negatively about others behind their back.
6. Discussing or exhibiting prejudicial attitudes. While your beliefs are your own business, your child has to exist in a diversified environment. Your child will eventually have to work in a diversified environment. You can make that easy or difficult.
7. Demeaning behaviors. Being sarcastic, embarrassing your child, belittling your child, comparing your child negatively to others (sibling, relative, or friend), etc. will have a negative impact on your child’s self-concept forever.
8. Quick to anger. Be a role-model of “counting to ten” before reacting. Take time to find out the facts before reacting.
9. Cheating. Don’t assume you child knows what cheating is. Have frequent discussions about what constitutes cheating. (Many high school students think it is perfectly acceptable to copy homework from others.) Be a role-model of honesty yourself.
10. Bullying/Harassment. If you see or hear ANY bullying or harassment, put a stop to it immediately–even if it involves someone else’s child. NEVER allow your child to bully anyone–even a younger sibling.
Even if none of these things happen in your home, your child is probably “living with” many of these things somewhere. Daycare is a primary source for many of these behaviors. This means it will take a great deal of effort on your part to explain why these things are inappropriate and to give them the proper behaviors. I know this seems unfair somehow; but in the end, it is parents who are accountable for their child’s behavior.